In 1992, Feladay, a highly respected Highlife musician back then and a guitar virtuoso, released an album which had a moderate hit track titled ‘Ashina’. The track was a neo-cover of Rex Jim Lawson’s ‘Sawale ( Asewo)’ ( Hope I got the title right) and Feladey gave it a new interpretation.
A couple of months later, Alex Zitto, a Ghanaian-born Reggae artiste naturalised in Lagos, released his sophomore album which had the massive hit ‘Walakolombo’ and the airwaves had a blast with that track. That track took Alex Zitto to a new stratosphere and till today, that track is one of the classics of the nineties reggae/ pop movement in Nigeria. The track itself was another hybrid version of Rex Jim Lawson’s ‘Sawale’ but given a mid-tempo reggae beat by Zitto and his producer then, Pa Chris Ajilo.
Feladey’s version immediately went under somewhat when Zitto’s ‘Walakolombo’ was released and I remember reading a few newspaper reports of Feladey accusing Alex Zitto of ‘stealing’ or plagiarising his own copy of ‘Sawale’ (his ‘Ashina’ version) and at first listen, that seemed to be the case with the chorus mantra of both songs ; ‘I go tell your Papa…Oyeee. I go tell your mama…Oyeeee’.
Over twenty-five years later, Flavour, the neo-Highlife Pop king, released a song titled ‘Asewo’ which became a monster hit all over the African continent and beyond. A new generation of youths didn’t care to know if the song was a cover of a sixties Highlife hit. They just assumed that its an original composition by Flavour. And in no interview have I read that Flavour credited the source of the track to either Rex Jim Lawson or the second generation cover versions of Feladey and Alex Zitto. Listening to Flavour’s version, it’s almost clear that he borrowed some aspects from Alex Zitto’s ‘Walakolombo’ and Rex Jim Lawson’s ‘Sawale’
Given that aspects of the copyright laws in Nigeria makes a song or creative work a public domain work after twenty-five years, I am wondering if Rex Jim Lawson’s estate cannot claim millions of naira as compensation from Flavour as the original spine of the song is from RJL and surely the estate deserve some form of rumeneration seeing that the exploitation of that track has generated over a hundred million naira in assets and endorsements for the new breed artistes?
What do you think?
Charles Novia is an award-winning filmmaker. He is founder of November Productions and November Records. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.